A Peace Corps trainee writes from Kathmandu
Flash: As we were about to publish this post, we learned that the Peace Corps is bringing Rachel’s group of trainees back from Nepal.
As public health people, as human beings, we hear stories about the earthquake in Nepal and are moved by the chaos, fear, trauma, grief and disorientation experienced by its victims. We know the horror lasts long beyond the event and has repercussions for people and cities for years to come. Life will never be the same for so many.
Gillings School alumna Rachel Holtzman, BSPH (HPM, 2014) is the vibrant, energetic daughter of one of our faculty members, Pam Silberman, JD, DrPH, Professor of the Practice of health policy and management. Rachel has been in Nepal as a new Peace Corps volunteer who got her initiation in the grim moments as the earthquake struck.
Today, I’m going to share Rachel’s words about living through the earthquake as the world around her in Kathmandu suddenly, horrifically shifted:
I was on the balcony of the second story of a building, looking outside and sipping coffee, when the world started to spin. At first I thought I might be sick, perhaps feeling the effects of a migraine or about to faint. But then the screaming started, chairs were pushed out, people started running and screaming and pushing and shoving. I don’t remember this, but my friends around me said that I immediately yelled “GET DOWN. GET OUT.” So we ran.
. . . .
Emergency response teams and international relief are being flown in from around the world, but it feels like there is a complete dearth of organized post-disaster needs assessment, so I’m not sure how the relief will be distributed. Individual people (including many people here at the Embassy) are aiding every day in picking through the rubble of collapsed buildings, pulling out bodies, but the Government of Nepal has shut down for the week. The death toll is now over 3,400, but that count is mainly from the valley. The surrounding rural areas haven’t been accounted for yet, but with the mud homes that many people live in, unfortunately the death number will only continue to climb.
Fortunately, Rachel, her colleagues and the other Peace Corps volunteers were unharmed. She has been helping frenzied U.S. Embassy staff connect families to one another—relatives who made it through the earthquake and those seeking the missing who may not have made it. Her lucid, observant, compassionate account is awesome and awe-inspiring. Think about what you can do to help. Barbara